Arsenal are Wembley-bound after comfortably disposing of Lincoln City 5-0 in the FA Cup sixth round – as battling Imps are clapped off by generous home support
PUBLISHED: 19:30 11 March 2017 | UPDATED: 20:34 11 March 2017
Arsenal Wembley-bound after disposing of non-league Lincoln City 5-0 in the sixth round of the FA Cup in 300th game played at the Emirates.
Arsene Wenger’s side eclipsed the Imps with goals from Theo Walcott, Olivier Giroud, an own goal from the visitor’s captain Luke Waterfall, a strike from Alexis Sanchez and one from Aaron Ramsey.
The North Londoners provided a happy end to a miserable week by winning through to the FA Cup semi-finals to be held on the weekend of April 22/23 – while Lincoln deserve plaudits for their efforts not only today but in making the sixth round as a non-league club.
In truth, despite Lincoln’s hard work the scoreline did not flatter Arsenal, who will be dreaming of silverware in the merry month of May should they get past a selection of far tougher opponents in the last four - even if the generous Emirates home crowd stayed to clap the brave minnows off the pitch.
Arsenal fielded a strong side against Lincoln, as first choice Premier League keeper Petr Cech retuned to the side, even if it was more to do with cup keeper David Opsina pulling out with a knock.
Olivier Giroud started again, with controversial Chilean Alexis Sanchez also starting, while left back Kieran Gibbs played instead of Nacho Monreal.
Lincoln who had beaten Arsenal in the side’s previous game – albeit in 1915, a few days before the Gallipoli campaign during the First World War – began the day six points clear in their division, four below Arsenal, and unbeaten in their last 16 matches all competitions, including a 4-0 rout of Braintree the same night Arsenal were being thrashed at home by Bayern.
There may have been further fan protests ahead of kick in today’s eagerly-awaited match – eagerly-awaited at least by every single of the 9,000 excited Imps fans packing the Clock End – but in truth the turnout did not show a substantial increase on Tuesday night’s march from Highbury to the Emirates.
It might have been due to the fact that while they seemed entirely appropriate against German giants Bayern Munich who humiliated the North London club 5-1 again and 10-2 on aggregate – to repeat the feat against a humble non-league team from the fifth tier who lost their league status five long years ago may have smacked of a sense of self entitlement, even if their feelings were genuine and heartfelt.
The fact remains the protestors grievances are valid – as one of the organisers said to on me on Avenell Road as the march was about to begin: “We respect what Wenger has done for the club but we feel the club has stagnated under him over the last few years.”
Watching the team in Munich and on Tuesday night it was difficult to disagree with both clauses of his assertion. However, against the humble Lincolnshire minnows – led superbly by the Cowley brothers – it seemed churlish to talk about struggling clubs.
The protestors will be back, and with every right, but with the Imps not finishing higher than 13th in half a decade in non-league football, their fans would be the ones with a right to complain. They weren’t of course – not today of all days - as this sixth round tie was a deserved present for their loyalty – not to mention their superlative run in this season’s competition which has already accounted for Premier League Burnley and Championship side Ipswich.
Aaron Ramsey could have broken the deadlock on 10 minutes after Hector Bellerin squared the ball for him on the edge of the area, but the Welshman fired wide to the left of former Newcastle youth keeper, Paul Farman’s goal.
The former Blyth Spartans man resplendent in all pink then showed good reactions to get down low to his left to parry a powerful volley from Theo Walcott moments later.
On 26 minutes Oxlade-Chamberlain was substituted for Mesut Ozil on 26 minutes - to the 9,000 Lincoln fans predictably chanting ‘Who Are Ya’ at the German.
No-one begrudged the Imps fans their day out and their terrific support. But their continual chanting of ‘Ing-ger-land’ and the Dambusters theme tune at Arsenal fans and players was a tad tedious – even if Bomber Comand were based in the cathedral city.
For no club gave more than the 44 players who served in action during the Second World War than this great North London club. Perhaps those Imps fans should have taken a trip to the RAF Memorial at Runnymeade a matter of miles from London for proof.
Just before the half hour mark Nathan Arnold almost wrote his name into the history books by cutting inside from the right and curling the ball to the left of Cech’s goal – who managed to tip the ball just past the post.
Arnold who was a prominent member of the Grimsby side that won promotion back to the League football last season bravely opted to sign to play under the progressive Cowley’s – and has been instrumental in their never-to-be-forgotten FA Cup run this season.
Their first match against fellow National League side Guiseley in this tournament back in October must have seemed light years away from under the Emirates lights in front of 60,000 and millions live on TV.
Right on half time Walcott made it 1-0 to Arsenal after the ball pinged around in a crowded box. While the Imps had battled gamely throughout the first 44 minutes it was little more than Arsenal deserved to go into the break 1-0 up.
It was the former Southampton man’s 12 goal in the FA Cup for Arsenal – the same number as Ian Wright.
Minutes after the restart Kieran Gibbs could have made it 2-0 as he headed over from a matter of yards out, after Farman got down low to his left to parry a shot from Giroud.
On 52 minutes Giroud atoned for his colleague’s miss when he fired in from close range after he initially performed an air kick after Sanchez crossed from the right. Bellerin nearly made it three a minute later before an own goal by away team captain Luke Waterfall on 57 minutes saw Lincoln facing a deluge of their own as Arsenal went 3-0 up.
The ball ended up in the net following good work by Sanchez down the visitor’s right flank - including an impish through ball to Gibbs who fired at the unfortunate defender and into the net.
With 25 minutes remaining Giroud received a deserved ovation on being substituted for Lucas Perez. It was the least he deserved – even if many observers believe the lively Spaniard deserves far more game time than he actually gets.
Another lively Spanish-speaker, Sanchez made it 4-0 minutes later after firing a low but powerful curling shot from outside the area to Farman’s left.
Ramsey then completed the rout by walking the ball into the net moments later to make it five.
Arsenal will have far tougher tests than Lincoln City in the coming weeks, but for now the manager and players can bask in the satisfaction of a job well done.
As can Lincoln’s impressive Cowley brothers as everyone in football wishes them well in their desire to return to league football – on the evidence of their FA Cup run which has been one of the stories of the season – they fully deserve to.
Cech, Gibbs, Koscielny (c), Sanchez, Ramsey, Giroud (Perez), Walcott, Oxlade-Chamberlain (Ozil), Mustafi, Bellerin, Xhaka (Coquelin),
Farman, Wood, Habergham, Waterfall (c), Muldoon, Power, Rhead, Hawkridge, Raggett, Arfnold, Woodyard.
Referee: Anthony Taylor
Tickets sold: 59,454.